City looks to feature local bands for transfer music

Published in The Daily Free Press Nov. 12 print edition

Being on hold for anyone calling the city of Boston will sound very different next year, as City Hall launched the BOSTunes contest on Twitter for local artists to be featured on the city’s transfer music with entries due on Dec. 2

The contest is a partnership between Boston’s Department of Innovation & Technology and Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events to help modernize City Hall’s phone system and increase interaction with the public.

“I’m always thinking about how we can make City Hall more participatory and inclusive, especially through social technology,” said Lindsay Crudele, community and social technology strategist for DoIT. “This seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring technology together with the arts, tapping into this platform as a showcase for local talent.”

Bands and individual artists varying in genre and age have submitted music to the contest and the winner’s work will become the new transfer music, which will be promoted through blogging, social media and the City Hall website.

Several bands participating in the contest said they find it a great opportunity to expose their music to people who have never heard it before.

Adam Salameh, singer and guitarist of the indie pop band Osaka Street Cutter, said exposure from a contest like BOSTunes is a way to expand the band’s fan base.

“The number one goal is to get your music heard, so [the contest] helps us in that way,” he said. “City Hall is such a widely reached audience, so it’d be really good for us [if we won.]”

Michael Epstein, from the indie baroque pop ensemble The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, said the contest is a great opportunity, but the group is not entirely concerned with winning.

“We’re less focused on specific goals [for the contest] and more focused on doing things that we enjoy,” he said. “It matters far less becoming the city’s hold music and far more that we think that it would be fun and probably humorous to be hold music.”

Wellington Netto, from the new-wave band McWolf, said City Hall’s initiative is helpful for the local music community.

“I’ve been around here for six years and I’ve always felt that Boston’s really a city that caters to the visual arts a lot and doesn’t cater as much to the oral arts and auditory things,” he said. “It’s cool to see City Hall in a creative and rather clever way to have local music for whoever happens to be calling in.”

Bradley Hatfield, professor of music at Northeastern University, said while the contest is a great opportunity for local artists, it highlights how musicians are viewed more as entertainers than as professionals.

“Music, for some reason, seems to be the thing that everyone wants people to donate, but not any other items or articles,” he said. “[In] typical agreements and any contract that’s worth anything, each party is giving something and getting something, and [the contest] sounds more like a one-way street.”

Several residents said they found the prospect of hearing local music an interesting way for City Hall to both upgrade its phone system and promote the arts.

Brenda Campbell, 46, of Boston, said the contest is something that more people, not just local artists, should be aware of.

“[The contest] matters a lot in a musical city like Boston, so it should definitely be advertised a lot more,” she said. “Not a lot of people use Twitter, so maybe an advertisement on the subway would be a way to get the word out better.”

Alecia Batson, 30, of Boston, said she does not think the contest is the best way for City Hall to promote local bands, but she still appreciate its efforts.

“I do like that they are looking to promote the brand [of music] in Boston,” she said. “What’s more important than the contest is the city as an entity bolstering its reputation by featuring the talent it fosters.”

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